- The HHS is funneling $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief payments to more than 7,600 healthcare providers countrywide this week, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
- About 82% of applications for phase four funding from the Provider Relief Fund have been processed and these payments have a focus on equity, reimbursing a higher percentage of losses for smaller providers and using additional payments for those serving Medicaid and Medicare patients, the HHS said.
- So far, a total of $11 billion in phase four general distribution payments have been made to more than 74,000 providers in all 50 states, according to the department.
Federal relief funding helped hospitals financially through the start of the pandemic, while those payments have tapered off even as the COVID-19 omicron variant surges.
Still, Tuesday's announcement will bring new funding to providers still weathering the pandemic, especially as staffing shortages and heightened labor expenses pose new financial challenges.
"Provider Relief Fund payments have served as a lifeline for our nation's heroic health care providers throughout the pandemic, helping them to continue to recruit and retain staff and deliver care to their communities," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Hospital leaders requested more federal help Tuesday during a call with reporters hosted by the American Hospital Association, lamenting that staffing shortages and skyrocketing rates for traveling-nurse staff are again hampering operations and causing some systems to close beds or delay surgeries because of a lack of needed staff.
The AHA asked Congress in a letter on Tuesday to include in legislation measures to quickly disperse remaining money from the PRF and add another $25 billion to help hospitals.
Before this latest distribution, the agency most recently funneled $9 billion from the PRF in December to more than 69,000 providers in all 50 states, with average payments ranging from $58,000 for small providers to $1.7 million for large providers, according to the agency.
The fund was created in March 2020 through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and initial distributions went out rapidly to help providers through the first days of the pandemic.
How regulators decided distribute the funds drew criticism after analyses showing that much of the funding went to large systems sitting on considerable cash reserves, raising questions about whether the money was directed to those most in need.
The agency made more targeted payments in following distribution rounds, while providers still expressed frustration when billions of dollars continued to sit in the relief fund.